On the final day of campaigning in the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election, the Liberal Democrats have returned to one of their key themes of the past few weeks, the local manufacturing sector.
The party’s Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander and Lib Dem candidate Elwyn Watkins were taken for a tour of Patterson and Rothwell in Oldham, a family-run firm which is still going strong after weathering its third recession in its three decades of existence.
Mr Alexander later told Saddleworth News: “It’s fantastic that you’ve got a really successful local business, a highly successful manufacturer. But it’s the sort of business that has had, like every business, difficulties over the past couple of years.”
He added: “They’re seeing now orders coming through. And we as a government need to do everything we can to try to support manufacturing over the next few years, to ensure that private sector-led recovery that we need really takes hold.”
Mr Alexander went on to praise Mr Watkins: “It’s been fantastic to see Elwyn’s amazing knowledge of manufacturing which I think would be one of the many reasons why he would be a superb local MP for this constituency.”
Figures recently suggested British manufacturing had enjoyed its best month for 16 years. When asked what the government would do to make sure that trend continues, Mr Alexander pointed to several things.
He said: “We’re currently conducting a forensic growth review within government to look at a whole range of sectors and across every government department, on what more the government can do to support economic growth. Whether it’s in the planning system, the tax system, whether it’s to do with employment law or regulation, whether it’s to do as they were saying here with exports, all of those things we’re looking at.”
Mr Alexander concluded: “It was very interesting to hear some of the things the folks here would like and I’ll take that away back to the Treasury, and we’ll certainly be looking at a whole range ideas in the run up to the Budget in March.”
Issuing a final message to any voters who may be undecided before tomorrow’s vote, Mr Watkins said: “People have got a clear choice. We know it’s going to be close, and people know what I stand for, what I’ve done, and what experience I’d bring. I’d be one of the few MPs with real manufacturing experience, it’s still the biggest private sector employer in Oldham, and we need to create more jobs.”
He also made a strong call for more action from banks: “It’s clear that they are still the arrogant, ignorant people they were a year ago. And I would think the government should absolutely take these guys to task. Not just on bonuses, but the fact that they won’t led good companies money for expansion and improving things.”
Mr Watkins continued: “We’ve got manufacturing companies that are profitable, they’ve got a good balance sheet, good potential, and the banks are simply being irresponsible in the way that they’re denying them money. We as a government have got to decide who’s the boss, the banks or us?”
You can listen to the interview with the two men in full here.
A total of ten candidates are standing in the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election, which takes place tomorrow. You can read and listen to in-depth interviews with Labour’s Debbie Abrahams here, BNP candidate Derek Adams here, Conservative Kashif Ali here, Peter Allen of the Greens here, Pirate Party UK candidate Loz Kaye here, Stephen Morris of the English Democrats here, UKIP candidate Paul Nuttall here and Liberal Democrat Elwyn Watkins here.
The other candidates are David Bishop of the Bus Pass Elvis Party and Nick “The Flying Brick” Delves from the Monster Raving Loony Party.
Lots of other senior politicians have been campaigning in our area in recent weeks, and you can read and listen to David Cameron’s interview with Saddleworth News here. You can hear from Foreign Secretary William Hague here.
Interviews with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg are here, here and here, while a chat with Lib Dem Business Secretary Vince Cable is here. You can hear from Labour leader Ed Miliband here, here and here, and a conversation with Shadow Chancellor Alan Johnson here. UKIP leader Nigel Farage spoke to Saddleworth News here.
To read full coverage of the by-election so far from Saddleworth News, click here.